What is the etiquette of public transit?

“The Rush of Crowds” (art by Robert Huffstutter – CC-BY)

Riding on buses or trains involves interaction with other riders. The experience can be positive or negative. To help tilt the balance towards the positive, there are certain unwritten (until now) rules of etiquette for public transport.

  • If there are vacant rows of seats, sit in one of those vacant rows. If there are plenty of empty rows and you sit next to the most attractive person on the bus, they will think you are creepy.
  • If there are no vacant rows, don’t “reserve” the seat next to you by dumping your bag on it. That’s plain anti-social.
  • Press the buzzer in plenty of time before your stop. The driver is busy focusing on road conditions, and would prefer not to swerve across and brake suddenly. On the other hand, don’t press the buzzer the instant the bus leaves the previous stop, because it makes the driver worry that he has pulled away from the stop too early and there is some kind of problem.
  • If you know you’re going to be riding the bus the next morning, go easy on the garlic the night before.
  • If you are coughing, snivelling and sneezing, see if you can travel another way. At the very least, catch your sneezes and coughs in a handkerchief or tissue.
  • Don’t delay everyone on the bus by paying with a handful of small-denomination coins that take forever to count out.
  • On escalators in Europe, stand on the right so that others can pass on the left.

Finally, don’t ride the metro in only your underwear, except on the annual “No Pants Ride” day, and don’t moon Amtrak trains except on the annual Amtrak mooning day.


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